writing & editing

“We’ve got all the words we need. Now it’s just a matter of getting them in the right order. — Monty Python

Writing is an art. Then again, so is welding. One way of judging a good weld is to stress-test it, and the same applies to writing. Does the writing support the weight of its subject? Does it stand up to force applied to it from different directions?

No matter how artful, we have little use for words that can’t pull their own weight.

So yes, we love an artfully turned phrase. But after writing or editing untold tens of thousands of articles, columns, tutorials, tech specs, blog posts, headlines, ads and teasers, we tend to view words the way an engineer views tools and materials. You chose the right ones for the job.

writeDictionary2After finishing a four-year enlistment in the U.S. Army, Dan Conover got his start as a writer in 1988 when he walked into offices of The Daily Tar Heel on his first day at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and said he was ready to start work immediately. He’d been covering City Hall for two weeks before anyone on staff figured out that he’d totally skipped their entire selection process. Dan won the UNC Journalism School’s MacNelly Award as the best writer from the graduating class of 1990, and skipped graduation to begin his career as a newspaper reporter. Two award-winning years later, the 29-year-old took a job as the city editor of a small daily newspaper, and moved up to a job as an assigning editor at the metro daily in Charleston, S.C., in April 1994.

Over the next 14 years he rose through the ranks to Sunday editor, city editor and web director, won ┬áS.C. Journalist of the Year and launched the paper’s first blogs, podcasts and multimedia programs. He also won two Phobos Fiction Awards, published short stories in four paperback anthologies, and earned entry to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

Since leaving the newspaper industry in 2008, Conover has worked as a freelance writer for newspapers, magazines and websites. He has also worked as an editor for hire, and as a coach for young fiction writers, reporters and assigning editors.

Janet Edens was that annoying girl from school who won every essay contest and kept a running tally of every book she’d ever read. She went straight into the journalism and mass-communications program at the University of South Carolina Honors College, worked as a reporter and editorial writer for The Gamecock, and earned her J-School degree in 1984. She began her career as a reporter for a metro newspaper in Georgia, where she proved to sources and coworkers alike that nice Southern girl could deliver the tough story on ┬ádeadline.

In 1985, her career took a different path when she accepted a job as a copy editor in Charleston. She established herself as one of the most efficient and capable copy editors on the night staff, but found her interests shifting toward design as new digital tools began to give editors unprecedented power to produce creative pages. Though she spent the bulk of her remaining newspaper career designing pages – winning several state-level awards — or training and managing designers, she moved seamlessly into the role of blogging and site editing as the digital revolution took root in the newsroom.

Janet’s work through Xarktopia remains focused on publication, website and graphic design, but she continues to write and and edit as needed. She writes headlines, cutlines, summaries and other editorial tasks for each issue of Turks & Caicos Magazine, and is back to writing short fiction after finishing her first book.